We Can Cope with That

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by An Anonymous Contributor

You know when you’re at the grocery store and the line is kind of long, or someone is moving kind of slow and you’re just looking around at the candy? Do you ever get that split second, impulsive, almost unconscious though of “I could steal this”?

Probably in that same instant you laugh to yourself about how silly that would be; that you don’t even want the candy bar you’re looking at; and then the cashier calls you up, you smile, and you move on with your day.

It isn’t perfect, but this is the closest analogy I have to describe what intrusive, passive, suicidal thoughts look like to me.

I’m pretty sure I have most of the diagnoses in the book (by book, I’m actually referring to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM): Major Depression, ADHD, Generalized Anxiety (or maybe an atypical OCD, we’re not quite sure yet), and most recently Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

I’d suspected that I’d had BPD since I was a junior in high school; a budding Psych major reading the DSM in the library on my lunch periods. When I stumbled on BPD I knew pretty instantly that things fit but I was also terrified. I read about how treatment was limited, and how most people experienced multiple suicide attempts and hospitalizations.

Most people who know me know that I live a life fairly opposite of the standard Cluster B personality short hand of “erratic, dramatic, and over-emotional.” But when depression hit again and my self-loathing was deep, my suicidal thoughts scarier than they ever had been, my self-harm less predictable and more severe, I asked my therapist directly if he thought I had BPD. And, though he hesitated, later explaining that he worried about weighing me down with the stigma that comes with the diagnosis, he said he did.

Though I’ve never attempted suicide, I have been plagued by intrusive, persistent, suicidal thoughts. Just like the voice in the back of your head at the grocery store telling you that you could steal that Snickers if you really wanted to; I have a voice in the back of my head telling me that I could kill myself if really wanted to–if the circumstances lined up correctly, if all my hope really was gone.

People were worried about me and checking in with me often. My family and friends were sometimes overwhelmed by how little they could do to help me; how powerless they felt in the face of something they couldn’t see or understand. I felt like I was slowly suffocating but my own brain was the one who wasn’t letting my lungs work.

My brain was the one keeping me awake every night telling me how much of a burden I was on the people who cared about me even though that care that they showed every day was a sign of how much they wanted me to stay alive and get back to being myself.

I still have a lot of trouble realizing that I can’t always trust my brain to be telling me the truth.

But the one strategy that’s stuck, that’s helped me get used to the thought that my brain is an unreliable narrator, is the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale.” It’s a fictional series about a small desert town’s community radio station where strange things happen. These include: Tuesdays occasionally being canceled due to scheduling errors, dogs not being allowed in the dog park because it is the home to strange, hooded figures, and civilizations of tiny people living below the alleys of the neighborhood bowling alley.

All of these events are reported in ominous, dark tones but, at the end of the day, the town lives on and the people realize that it’s not worth being afraid of all the things that they see, hear, and experience. They can live on, even with the strange, sometimes scary occurrences. I’m not great at it, but I’ve come to see my mind as Night Vale and its radio host, Cecil.

So, when my brain tries to tell me that everything is hopeless and when it won’t leave me alone, I try to smile and laugh at yet another story being spun and remember what Cecil said at the end of one episode: “And while the future is fast coming for you, it always flinches first and settles in as the gentle present. This now, this us, we can cope with that.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach Crisis Text Line.

Learning What Can Help

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This post was submitted by Melina Acosta, Member of Active Minds Student Advisory Committee and President of Active Minds at UT-San Antonio.

In November 2013, I knew little about mental health aside from the fact that my dad was battling depression. I avoided the topic of suicide on that autumn night when my dad mentioned it because I did not know how to respond. Sensing that it made me uncomfortable, my dad made that the first and last time he ever brought it up.

He died by suicide less than a week later.

I was nearly done with my first semester of college at the time of my dad’s death. That fall, I had gone home every so often to visit my dad, whose second bout of depression had grown increasingly worse over the semester. The man I had known all of my life to be a silly, ambitious, and energetic businessman was suddenly a taciturn, lethargic, and sad stranger. Continue Reading

Changing the Conversation

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Russell Fascione is a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee.

“Like… I get that it’s not the person’s fault really but… suicide is pretty selfish when you think about it.”

Flash.

Instantly, it was like somebody lit that spark in my mind that never fails to ignite my passion for mental health advocacy. For me, there’s something about stigma that turns an ordinary passion into the sort of fire that you can just see in someone’s eyes.

The above sentence was said to me (paraphrased, of course) a couple of years ago. I was tabling with a fellow Active Minds member and a friend of hers had joined us to hang out. I think we were tabling about suicide, which is why the subject came up.

My immediate reaction when she said this was to be offended. Did she really have the nerve to say that while we were tabling about suicide prevention? Once I took a step back from my emotion I realized that she didn’t mean to insult anyone. She probably didn’t understand how stigmatizing it can be to label suicide as “selfish.” How could I expect her to understand when the topic of suicide is so seldom discussed in our society?

“The thing about suicide is….” I paused, not wanting to offend her or make her think she offended me, “Even if we can call the act of attempting suicide selfish, the person behind it is not acting out of selfishness… if that makes sense.”

I could tell she was truly listening to what I was saying, so I continued. “When someone is so far into that dark place that they want to end their life, they might not be thinking about who their actions are going to hurt. Maybe they are in too much pain to think about it. And even if they are aware of how it might impact their loved ones, the desire to end their pain may have become too great to bear anymore.”

If I remember correctly, that’s about all I said. I could’ve gone in-depth about the known risk factors for suicidal behavior. I could have explained how feeling like a burden (a common experience of those contemplating suicide) might make someone think that they’re doing their loved ones a favor by taking their own life, which might completely negate any feelings of selfishness or guilt that they might have had. However, I could tell she was really considering what I had just said, and I didn’t want to go too far and overwhelm her.

The notion that suicide is selfish is something I had spent a great deal of time thinking about.

When I was 14 I felt so incredibly guilty for wanting to die, because I knew that if I killed myself my family would be devastated. For years, that guilt and the selfishness that I felt for thinking about suicide kept me from reaching out for help. All of the stigma about suicide–much of which I had internalized–had me convinced that it was better to suffer in silence than to have someone else think what I did: that I was selfish for wanting to die. I’ll never know for sure if that guilt had pushed me closer to the edge or further from it, but I do know that I’m grateful to be alive.

Make no mistake, I didn’t lose any respect for this acquaintance because of her statement, and there was no animosity created between us. In fact I’m glad she said what she said, because it reminded me that the stigma we need to face is not just in the media and our larger social systems, but in the people around us who don’t even realize that these ideas are stigmatizing.

It’s one of the things that make the work that we all do as Active Minds members or in other advocacy settings that much more important. I also realized that it was important for me to listen and understand where she was coming from too, because a one-sided conversation is not a productive conversation, especially in the pursuit of social change.

Being part of the social movement against mental health stigma can be difficult and discouraging, especially with the seemingly endless sea of misinformation and disrespect shown in various media outlets, but it’s worth it. Thinking back, it makes me happy to remember how respectful and thoughtful that conversation was. It gives me hope to know that “fighting” the stigma doesn’t have to be a fight, sometimes it’s as simple as a conversation.

I wanted to share this story here because I hope to see a day in which we can completely put to rest the idea that victims of suicide are selfish, weak, or otherwise bad people, and think instead with empathy by making an effort to understand what someone might be going through if they are contemplating suicide.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach Crisis Text Line.

10 Things You Can Do To Stop Suicide

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So much is happening as our movement kicks into high gear for Suicide Prevention Month (Sept 10 – Oct 3) to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.

Bottom line: all of us can help prevent suicide. Check out the ten ways you can act today at: http://www.activeminds.org/suicide-prevention-month-2016

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You’ll also see on that page examples of what Active Minds’ 400+ college chapters are doing on their campuses to spread awareness as widely as possible.

Together we are making a powerful statement of healing, hope, and help.

 

12 Ways to Promote Mental Health Awareness on Your Campus

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Now’s a great time to look ahead and plan your programs through the end of Fall semester and beyond; if you’re looking for a way to promote your Active Minds chapter on your campus, and raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention, consider hosting an event around one of the mental health awareness campaigns coming up!  Let Active Minds Speakers Bureau provide a presenter on one of the topics being highlighted, and remember– when you book an AMSB speaker, your chapter will receive programming credits toward your annual fundraising goal!

It’s not too late to organize an event around National Depression Screening Day®, Oct. 6 or World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10; Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place Oct. 2-8; all of the Active Minds speakers talk candidly about the impact of mental health disorders on their lives, and the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.  Continue Reading

Could This Be the Most Important Month of the Year?

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We think so. You probably do, too.

Suicide Prevention Month (Sept 10 – Oct 3) is when Active Minds and many other organizations say as loud as we can that suicide is preventable. Join us this month in spreading this hopeful message! Here’s

Active Minds’ Suicide Prevention Month kicks off on September 10, and there are several new, exciting ways to get involved! This year’s theme is The World Needs You Here, and we are excited to announce our first-ever chapter fundraising product, The World Needs You Here bracelets (see below for details!). Start getting ready for Suicide Prevention Month today:

1. Order “The World Needs You Here” Bracelets: Sign-up for a box of FREE bracelets (shipping/handling not included) to sell on campus to raise funds for suicide prevention through Active Minds, Inc. All proceeds will benefit the Active Minds national movement and will be credited to your chapter’s national fundraising goal.

2. Download the toolkit: Download Active Minds’ free Suicide Prevention Month toolkit, which includes a programming & prevention kit, panel discussion guide, and social media tools. We’re also co-hosting a Twitter chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Friday, September 9 (World Suicide Prevention Day) from 1-2:30 pm ET. Join us!

Continue Reading

Suicide Prevention Month is Coming Up. We Want You to Blog for Us.

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Active Minds is currently accepting blog submissions for our Suicide Prevention Month series. Please see submission guidelines and instructions here

There are a bunch of different reasons someone might submit a blog post for our Suicide Prevention Month campaign, but here are five we think are particularly universal.

1. Let people know they’re not alone.
One of the most powerful gifts we can give to each other is sharing our experiences. When you share your story about mental health disorders and suicidality, you let people who are struggling know they are not alone and help is out there.

Continue Reading

8 Ways Active Minds Chapters Can Get Ready for the Fall Semester

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With September right around the corner, now is a great time to start planning for your chapter’s success in the 2016-2017 academic year. Here are some of our top tips for getting the year off on the right foot:

1. Study up on the new ratings criteria. We heard your feedback on ratings, inventories and more. Check out the new ratings to make sure you’re on track to be a five-star chapter!

2. Start planning Suicide Prevention Month. Share a post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr from September 10 to October 3 with #ReasonsISpeak and the reasons you combat the silence surrounding suicide and mental illness. Feeling inspired? Submit a post to our Suicide Prevention Month blog.

3. Check out the new and improved Fundraising Resources, including brand new chapter fundraising pages. Will your chapter be the first to raise $1,000 and get on our leaderboard?

Continue Reading

Our Favorite #ReasonsISpeak Posts of 2015

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Today is officially the end of Active Minds Suicide Prevention Month, which means it’s also the end of our #ReasonsISpeak social media campaign. Thank to you, over 1,000 incredibly powerful posts were shared on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

Keep reading for some of my favorite #ReasonsISpeak posts and continue sharing your own! We need to speak out every day of the year, not just during Suicide Prevention Month.

Just one last thing from me: If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 800-273-TALK or text “BRAVE” to 741-741.

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Suicide Prevention Month: A Handful

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

stay with us active minds

“In the past, have you ever attempted to seriously hurt yourself?”

She means have I ever attempted suicide.

I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans.

“Um, yeah. I’ve attempted,” I counted with my fingers in my lap. “…about, a handful of times.”

A handful. A neat five little fingers. I summed it all up to that.

What couldn’t fit into a handful was the nights on the cold linoleum tiles of my dorm room floor sobbing, imploding, tucking all my body parts into each other in hopes that if I became small enough, I could cease to exist.

Continue Reading